NOTE: The Readfield Historical Society annual meeting and program planned for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in Gile Hall in Readfield has been canceled. This will be rescheduled at a later time. Watch for announcements in the media and on the RHS facebook page, according to a news release fro the historical society.

The Readfield Historical Society will host conservationist and amateur historian Jym St. Pierre during Maine Bicentennial weekend, at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in Asa Gile Hall, 8 Old Kents Hill Road, Readfield.

St. Pierre will present the illustrated talk “The Kennebec Proprietors of Kennebec Valley: Good Guys or Bad Guys?,” according to a news release from the historical society.

Jym St. Pierre will present “The Kennebec Proprietors of Kennebec Valley: Good Guys or Bad Guys?” during Maine Bicentennial weekend on Saturday, March 14, at Asa Gile Hall, 8 Old Kents Hill Road, Readfield. Photo courtesy of the Readfield Historical Society

In 1749, a small group of men met in Boston and agreed to revive an obscure 17th-century grant to a huge region along the Kennebec River in the Province of Maine. The Kennebec Proprietors counted among their investors many of the most influential aristocrats in colonial Massachusetts. However, conflict with Native Americans as well as with a competing group of Great Proprietors known as the Pejepscot Company erupted. Both companies accused the other of trying “to blind the Eyes of People, and to delude the ignorant.” The controversy continued for years until a legal settlement was reached.

Most of the original Great Proprietors in both companies were members of the wealthy merchant and governing class of the British colonies. As members of the political elite, they were used to getting their way, whether by investment, persuasion, political manipulation, marriage, legal challenge, or brute force. They were devoted to God, king, country and self, not necessarily in that order.

Eventually, after the land was subdivided and sold, both groups of Great Proprietors dissolved — the Kennebec Company in 1816 and the Pejepscot Company in 1818. A couple of years later, everything changed when Maine became a state separate from Massachusetts. In 2020, we mark the bicentennial of Maine statehood.

The Great Proprietors were empire expanders and risk-takers, who enabled and encouraged local community development while pursuing what they believed to be their destiny. They were living contradictions who pursued their own self-interests to secure and expand their wealth and position, while they believed they were doing God’s will. Were they bad guys or good guys?

Following the program, the 2020 RHS Honoree will be announced and the annual meeting and election of officers will be conducted. Refreshments will be served. There is no fee. For more information, contact 377-2299 or [email protected].